As Pride month celebrations kick off, one activist is sharing his journey of activism since moving to New York City and how it's helped pave the way for the LGBTQ community today.
“What the LGBTQ community of New York City gave me was the freedom to live and to love as myself," said community activist, Brendan Fay.
What You Need To Know
- Brendan Fay moved to New York City from Ireland in 1984
- When he left Ireland, being gay was a criminal offense
- He's been a voice for the gay community as well as other human rights issues
Fay lives in Astoria with his husband Tom.
He moved to New York City from Ireland to study at St. John’s in 1984.
“I was so excited about the thought of coming to America,” he said. “In the 1980s, in the Ireland that I left, it was still a criminal offense to be gay," Fay said.
In New York, Fay began to feel free but it wasn’t easy -- as he marched behind the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization at the St. Patrick’s day parade in 1991, discrimination against the LGBTQ community was apparent.
“This is going to be the day that will change my life,” Fay said. “Stepping onto Fifth Avenue cause for the first time in my life in broad daylight, I was coming out as gay. Then the screams began, the rage happened. ‘Go back to where you came from,’ somebody threw beer cans.”
Moments like those were what sparked Brendan’s spirit of activism for his community.
“There’s a beautiful community that is celebrating what I was told,” Fay said. “What I had been told all my life to be ashamed of all my life."
Brendan was a voice in the marriage equality movement. He says he helped organize the first rally for the right to marry at City Hall in February of 1998.
In 2003, before it was legal in the United States, the marriage laws in Canada changed.
Brendan and his husband were one of the first gay couples to cross the border and get married. He then helped organize the “Civil Marriage Trail Project,” where he led other gay couples into Canada to do the same.
One of those couples was Edie Windsor and her wife Thea Spyer.
“Little did we know there was a profound moment of history taking place in that small hotel room, the Sheraton, in the Toronto airport," explained Fay.
Fay also fought for the LGBTQ right to March in St. Patrick's Day Parades.
“I’ve been arrested everywhere,” he said. “I said to Tom, I'm going to apply for a parade permit. And we’re going to build a parade that will be dedicated in a spirit and love. “St. Pat’s For All," said Fay.
Fay said he is grateful for the community New York City gave him and he will keep being loud for them.
“I want our city, our society, our schools, our churches, our mosques, our synagogues to be a place where everyone can flourish. Life is short. We need to celebrate and to love and to give each other hope," Fay said.